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Cynthia Joubert - Golden thread through Friemersheim

Cynthia Joubert (63) is the founder of the sewing centre in Friemersheim, a building that is now also a popular tourist spot called the Shweswhe Stop. Cynthia learned how to sew while working in a factory in Cape Town. She and her two colleagues also play an important role in doing the sewing work and clothing alterations needed by members of their community.

“My parents were also Friemersheimers. They also come from here. We’re all family in Friemersheim. I was a young girl when I went to Cape Town and worked there. I also got married there, but to someone who was also from Friemersheim. I worked there for about 12 years in a factory, that’s where the sewing bug bit me. It was a clothing factory, Meritex in Parow. Then we decided we didn’t want to live in the Cape anymore, the Cape is too deurmekaar, and we came back. And at that time here wasn’t any work for women. The women who are here in Friemersheim do house work in Great Brak, Mossel Bay – at the white people’s homes, cleaning houses.

“I had a few women at my house, and we started with just pieces of fabric, just to make the time pass. And later, it grew. Then we got a room at our local clinic and we got donations from PetroSA, and from Eskom. Nelma came across our path and she started with the shweshwe products. She didn’t think it would grow so much – she’s the one who puts everything on the internet. But the work is getting more. A lot of people are buying the products, even in Knysna. She goes around to all the shops, everything we can’t do. We don’t have transport to drive around. She does all that for us, and it keeps us going.

cynthia joubert garden route 2
cynthia joubert garden route 3

"Then we decided we didn’t want to live in the Cape anymore, the Cape is too deurmekaar, and we came back. And at that time here wasn’t any work for women."

“We’ve been operating for very long, but we’ve only started with the shweshwe in about 2017. I love the shweshwe colours. There at Jacksons where we get our material, there are so many different colours when you go in there! All those colours, you don’t even know where to look… it’s so beautiful.

“But it’s not all we do, for our local people we do all the alterations, fixing all their damaged clothes. This is the only sewing place there is, so they bring all their things here. We also make the tracksuits for our local school and the uniforms.

“In the beginning, Friemersheim didn’t really receive support, they didn’t believe in us yet. But these days, they believe. So everyone comes here if they need something fixed. Now, I always ask, why did the Lord – now that I’m older, because I’m already turning 63 – why did He make the work come in now? But I guess He had a time for everything. I had to have quieter times, and I had to learn a lot to get to where I am. But age is only a number.

“I wouldn’t really know why people like shweshwe so much. Our people, locally, don’t really know it. If you drove into town and you asked anyone, “Where is the Shweshwe Stop?” Then they don’t know. But if you ask “Where is the sewing place?” Then they know exactly. That’s why I said, many tourists come in and show interest in it, but us coloureds don’t really buy shweshwe, we don’t care much for it. They don’t know the story of it. I think it’s too expensive for our people.

“I think for a woman it’s wonderful to do something, and it’s bread on the table. And they learn, that’s the main thing. They learn something that nobody can take away from them. They learn how to do something. If you can make a bed sheet for yourself, why should you go buy one? Because you’ve learned how to make one. And it’s cheaper!”

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